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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Silence and the city

A play, The Damned Silence, tackles an ignored issue — loneliness in cities.

September 29, 2019 1:31:53 am
Silence and the city A scene from the play (above); Anub George

Written by Sadaf Inamdar

Although there are virtually no accurate statistics to go by, anecdotal and narrative evidence point to a problem that is rising exponentially and has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the world — loneliness. A play written and directed by Anub George and titled The Damned Silence, focuses on how to come to terms with a persistent and pervasive problem in our cities.

Written especially for the Vibrancy Festival, a two-day diversity and inclusion event in Pune and organised by the Centre for Creative Transformation on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, the play centres around a male protagonist in his mid-20s who is going through various shifts in life alone. It takes one through his emotions, personified by other actors . “Although it’s easy to blame the breakdown of a traditional family unit, mindless scrolling of our phones or the jobs that follow us through emails and texts, the loneliness that city dwellers are experiencing is not rooted in any one phenomenon,” says George.

The play, which has no spoken word, uses a play of light as well as stylised movements to depict the dark monotony of loneliness. The protagonist mimes his longing to reach out and interact with others through actions such as watching his phone, scrolling incessantly and walking aimlessly.

“There are various elements in the play that I directly pulled from the struggles I went through during the period of trying to choose a career and tackling issues of self-sustainability in today’s competitive environment,” he says. The play also highlights the effects of anger on men. “There are a lot of violent crimes being perpetrated by men due to lack of understanding of their own emotions and frustration within. The way men experience anger is informed by societal expectations. These traditional notions of masculinity tend to favour stoicism and dominance.

Although not inherently negative, adhering rigidly to these traits has a very negative impact on their mental health and this then comes out in wrong ways,” says George. His last play, Café Alibaba, a six-scene play written by Satish Khot, was a take on modern-day relationship dynamics and talked about young people and their struggles and aspirations. His forthcoming play deals with another searing topic — child abuse at home. George is working on Mahesh Dattani’s classic 30 days in September, which tackles the issue through a poignant tale.

In the countdown to the Vibrancy Festival, he is fine-tuning The Damned Silence. “Tackling the issue of loneliness requires a complex, multi-pronged approach and a good way to start would be to normalise conversations around the subject and not dismiss serious concerns as ‘being dramatic’ or ‘throwing an attitude’. So much of the pain of loneliness is due to feeling compelled to hide the vulnerability, because more often than not, when someone does open up, they are told to ‘chill’. We have to think retroactively and not just in regards to how it affects us. Through the play, I hope to encourage people to think of the various ways they can help people suffering with these issues in life,” he says.

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